In the summer of 1917 several members of the Cabinet formed themselves into a club, with other prominent officials in Washington, and kept themselves fit throughout the season by consistent morning exercise, four days a week. So far so good, only we should have realized more than a year ago the strain that was coming upon our men and taken measures to meet it, as Germany did. Dr. William C. Woodward, who is chairman of the District Police Board in Washington, did not overstate the matter when he said that the draft officers were weary, that the strain had begun to threaten their efficiency, and that they were thoroughly undermining their bodies in the effort to accomplish their tremendous task. Every community has seen the same thing happen, and several of them can agree with Doctor Woodward that this has come close to being a really serious business calamity throughout the country. All these men should have been prepared by thirty or sixty days of physical training for this extra strain.
Again, the Equitable Life Assurance Society, in its September Bulletin, calls attention to the fact that, out of approximately 1,300,000 men who volunteered for the army and navy, only 448,859 were acceptable. Furthermore, the Equitable notes that these physical impairments not only will not correct themselves, but that they will get worse, and that a large percentage of our vast horde of physically sub-standard, low-priced men will drift into sickness and meet premature death because their power to resist disease is rapidly declining. The Equitable calls, on this convincing evidence, for a thorough and permanent system of health education in our schools, saying: “With all of our wealth and intelligence and scientific knowledge in the field of health conservation, we are allowing a large proportion of our children to pass out of the schools into adult life physically below par.” The Equitable concludes with the remark: “Some day we will give all American school children thorough physical training and health education. Why not commence now?”
Dr. S. Weir Mitchell says:
All classes of men who use the brain severely, and who have also—and this is important—seasons of excessive anxiety or grave responsibility, are subject to the same form of disease; and this is why, I presume, that I, as well as others who are accustomed to encounter nervous disorders, have met with numerous instances of nervous exhaustion among merchants and manufacturers.
My note-books seem to show that manufacturers and certain classes of railway officials are the most liable to suffer from neural exhaustion. Next to these come merchants in general, brokers, etc.; then, less frequently, clergymen; still less often, lawyers; and, more rarely, doctors; while distressing cases are apt to occur among the overschooled young of both sexes.
Here is a day’s list: